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Jordan government officials arrested high-profile members of the Kingdom on Saturday, citing the nation’s “security and stability” amid ongoing investigations.
Petra, the official state news agency, reported that Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a member of the royal family, and Basem Ibrahim Awadallah, a former head of the royal court who formerly served as finance minister and planning minister, are among those detained “for security reasons.” As well, Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, the half-brother of King Abduullah II and former crown prince, said he’s been placed under house arrest — a claim disputed by authorities.
In a video statement sent to the BBC later on Saturday, Hamzah had strong words for the security officials who he said had detained him at his home as “a warning.” In it, the prince says the country’s military chief told him not to interact or communicate with other people. The former crown prince said his security detail was removed and that his cell phone and internet services were disabled. He said that satellite internet, his remaining mode of communication, was also under threat.
He said that Jordan’s crackdown on any sort of criticism has stoked fear in the country.
“Even to criticize a small aspect of a policy leads to arrest and abuse by security services and it’s reached a point where no one is able to speak or express an opinion on anything without being bullied, arrested, harassed and threatened,” he said.
He said he was being detained for associating with individuals accused of criticizing the king. Hamzah argued that he never partook in conversations of that nature but also said that he was told by the military chief that he wasn’t being accused of such actions.
“I’m not part of any conspiracy or nefarious organization or foreign-backed group, as is always the claim here for anyone who speaks out,” he said. “There are members of this family who still love this country, who care for [its people] and will put them above all else.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maj. Gen. Yousef Huneiti told Petra that Hamzah was not arrested. He was, however, asked to stop “movements and activities that are used to target” Jordan’s security and stability. Huneiti said this was in conjunction with the arrests that he confirmed had taken place.
Huneiti said the investigation is ongoing and the results will be announced with full transparency and clarity. “No one is above the law, and Jordan’s security and stability take precedence over any consideration,” he said.
Multiple countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United States, have expressed strong support for the king.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Twitter, “We are closely following the reports and in touch with Jordanian officials. King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support.”
Saudi Arabia has taken a similar stance, backing any and all actions Jordan’s king and crown prince must take to maintain a secure and stable nation, the AP reported.